Nick Webb discusses the contradictions in a new Agricultural Bill aimed at protecting British farmers and food standards.
Photo by Travis Essinger
In early 2020, the UK government introduced a new Agriculture Bill, phasing out the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that Britain has been a part of since 1973.
The new Bill claims to attempt to improve conditions for farmers, and provide economic incentives for more environmentally sustainable farming practices. The Bill, however, has come under criticism from many, including the National Farmers’ Union, the DUP, and animal welfare campaigners.
The UK’s new Agriculture Bill promises ‘public money for public goods’– offering subsidies to farmers who, rather than concentrating on volume of land available to be cultivated, deliver universal benefits which do not naturally offer any economic reward: clean water and air, and an increase in biodiversity.
When drafting the Bill, farmers, and environmentalists campaigned to ensure the addition of clauses to protect food standards and not allow low-quality food imports to be a part of future trade deals post-Brexit.
Due to extensive erosion of soil on ploughed fields, the Bill aims to combat potential future food shortages and crises of food security by rewarding farmers who are able to protect the soil with which they work. This can be done through measures like crop rotation, and using fewer unnatural fertilisers.